Thursday, July 27, 2017

Who Fears the Christ?

Nothing terrifies modern writers like the Christ.

His is the name none dare speak.  His teachings must not be allowed to escape from the low-budget and independent ghettos into which they have been thrust by the gatekeepers and tastemakers over the last few decades.  When Christ does make an appearance in modern cinema, he must be presented as the Marxist stepin-fechit style of Jesus ready to argue that the salvation of man can only come about through the forcible starvation deaths of six million Ukrainians or thirty million Chinese peasants.

Not joking - actual line from the execrable 2016 version
of "Ben Hur".  Subtle, filmmakers.  Subtle
Of course, Who Fears the Devil taps into a great deal of Christian mythology.  As the mythology of America for the first 200 years of its existence, give or take a decade or so, the biblical references were a natural way of tapping into the core culture of the reader.

Not only does Walk Like a Mountain contain a pair of big folk likely descended from the giants who walked the earth in Genesis, the biggest ingénue ever chides the savage beast by pointing out, “The least man in size you’d call for, when he speakes to God, he says, ‘Our Father.’”
The haunted spook come to set things right in Old Devlins Was A Waiting demands a tribute not of blood or bits of the guilty man’s soul, but a penance as strict as any priest might assign.

Not for Manly Wade Wellman the heresy of the Niceness Doctrine.  When Craye Sawtelle stops by to make an offer for a spring of holy water that heals even sick chickens, the Godly men who created the spring (Silver John himself) and care for it (Zeb) know exactly what she is up to, and don't grin and apologize and scrape for her approval in the hopes that love will conquer all.  Instead, they remind her that:
"Nobody's hurt to kneel before God," said Zeb.

Silver John doesn't negotiate with the woman who all but admits to serving the devil.  He doesn't lay out a welcome mat in the hopes that love will conquer all.  He doesn't refuse to fight back, because "fighting back makes us the same as the person attacking us."  He hits the witch square in the face with a pail of holy water and washes her darkness from the face of the earth, Dorothy style! 

(As ends all the best fairy tales in which the evil snake is vanquished, Zeb can finally get with the fair maiden Tilda.  Is there a more suitable ending for a Chirstian tale than the lovely couple going forth and multiplying?  I think not.)

Interestingly, when the carpenter himself does make an appearance, it is to build a bridge rather than a wall.  Of course, the peace that He makes between neighbors who have fallen out is the peace among neighbors and equals and men of good will, rather than the peace of those who would trespass and impose upon their neighbor who lives at a higher elevation - an important distinction and one so self-evident as to be literally unremarkable to the common sensical among us. 

And yet, it is in these simple, home spun tales that we see the true genius of stories like One The Hills and Everywhere.  They do not require a deep understanding of Biblical scholarship, or a fervent belief in the minutiae of say, the Catholic Catechism.  These are simply the natural sort of spook tale that can bridge the gap between religious and secular.  They appeal to everyone, and touch on deeper truths about mankind and his place in it - deeper truths than you can find in the bleak secularism of today's culture where nothing matters and everyone is fine and the worst things you can do are resist temptation and fight back against those who would lay the slave chains of sin lightly upon your shoulders.

And that's what makes them so dangerous to the Adversary.  And that's why they have to be memory holed by Fire Departments of the Bradbury type. 

And that's why reading books like Who Fears the Devil can be a superversive act of defiance.

No comments:

Post a Comment